On September 7, 2016, when the Jubilee Party was formed at State House as a “roll up” of parties forming the Jubilee coalition from the 2013 election, officials of the Chinese Communist Party were in honored attendance.
This followed the announcement the previous month, a year ahead of the 2017 vote, of a new Party-to-Party “working relationship”.
Jubilee Party Steering Committee co-chairman Kiraitu Murungi announced that the two political outfits will work together for the benefit of its members and citizens of both countries.
. . . We are happy that we are going to sign a new chapter of political co-operation,” said the Meru Senator [Kiraitu Murungi] on Friday.
Kiraitu was accompanied by his co-chair Noah Wekesa and other members of the steering committee. He said the two parties share almost similar ideologies, pointing out that they are concerned with uniting people of their respective countries.
He [Wang Xiaohui, CPC Deputy Director of Policy and Research] stated that CPC would offer the scholarships annually for Jubilee Party to take its members to China to learn skills on grassroots mobilization, democracy, and party management.
Mr Wang added that the two political parties agreed to establish collaboration mechanisms.
“We are ready to deepen collaboration mechanisms with the Jubilee party just as we have done with the African National Congress of South Africa and the Chama cha Mapinduzi of Tanzania,” he affirmed.
And yes that event at State House celebrating the deeping partnership of Jubilee and the Communist Party of China yesterday has turned heads. I think a lot of Americans had not been aware of this relationship. Obviously it makes sense in carrying forward the spirit of KANU of Kenyatta and Moi and their understudies. Kenya always labeled itself a “democracy” whether one party rule was formal or informal. China, of course, is also “democratic” with numerous parties other than the Communist Party.
At a micro level I would take umbrage at the blatant use of State resources for Jubilee Party business, but since the Party was launched at State House in the first place and the donors supporting “Western-style” democracy and the “rule of law” and such were not willing to say “boo”–nor the IEBC nor the Office of the Registrar of Political Parties–there is never a reason to be surprised at this point. We reap as we sow.
On January 25, 2018, Professor Peter Kagwanja, by reputation a fierce ideologue of the ruling party, gave and then published interesting speech through the think tank he heads. (Kagwanja is married to Dr. Monica Juma, Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs at that time, and promoted to Cabinet Secretary just afterwards [and now C.S. for Defense].) Kagwanja is known for things like providing arguments justifying the 2017 pre-election deployment of the Kenya Defense Forces within Kenya itself without Parliamentary clearance as stipulated in the 2010 Constitution):
The Africa dream captured by the Africa Union (AU) agenda 2063 meets the Chinese dream in the Belt and Road Initiative, the main foreign policy of President Xi Jinping.Here in Kenya, the impact of Belt and Road Initiative is seen in the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) project, developed to link the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean, from the port of Mombasa to Africa Atlantic sea board.It also resonates with the four pillars President Kenyatta has identified as part of his legacy which is food security, affordable housing, manufacturing and inexpensive healthcare.
The key lesson learnt in the 19th [CPC] congress, is the role of political stability in underpinning sustainable and long term development. Governments, come and go, but political parties should remain. The tragedy in Africa is that its political parties have a high mortality rate, making the Continent extremely unstable. Parties like the Communist PartyofChina(97Years),AfricaNationalCongress (ANC) of South A frica (106 years), Republican Party and Democratic Party (United States) respectively (164 years and 190 years) are the exception rather than the norm.
Africa needs strong parties, it needs to borrow a leaf from the Communist Party of China whose “democratic centralism”, has underpinned the world fastest economic growth in centuries.
Ironically, perhaps, “capacity building” and procurement systems, along with the subsequently abandoned electronic results transmission system, were touted by U.S. Ambassador Ranneberger as features of the U.S. pre-election support in Kenya in 2007:
* “Developing the capacity of the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) lies at the heart of our strategy. The USG funded International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES) has been providing support to the ECK since late 2001. Activities focus on providing appropriate technology for more efficient and transparent elections administration while improving the skills of the ECK technical staff. This support additionally includes capacity building and technical assistance to support election administration. Technical assistance includes computerization of the Procurement and Supplies Department, which is responsible for printing and distributing election materials. Assistance will also support implementation of the ECK’s restructuring plan, strengthening logistics capacity, and accelerating the transmission and display of results.”
For the 2013 election, I have a copy of one last minute USAID procurement through IFES for the Kenyan IEBC related to the failed electronic results transmission system; I would assume there were other USAID procurements involved for the IEBC. Notably, the Supreme Court of Kenya found that the main cause of the failure of the electronic results transmission system and the electronic voter identification system appeared to be procurement “squabbles” among IEBC members. “It is, indeed, likely, that the acquisition process was marked by competing interests involving impropriety, or even criminality: and we recommend that this matter be entrusted to the relevant State agency, for further investigation and possible prosecution.” “Thoughts on Kenya’s Supreme Court opinion” April 13, 2013. See also, “Why would we trust the IEBC vote tally when they engaged on fraudulent procurement processes for key technology?”, March 24, 2013.
The most serious allegations relate to 7 contracts with the IIEC in Kenya between 2009-2010, worth £1.37 million, where S&O made unusually high commission payments of between 27% and 37% of the contract price. Part of prosecution’s case was that the commission of £380,859 over 18 months paid to the agent, Trevy James Oyombra, was exorbitant, and clearly designed to include payments for officials.
The contracts in Kenya included ballot papers and voter ID cards for By-Elections, 18 million voter registration cards, Referendum ballot papers, and other products relating to elections, such as card pouches, OMR forms, ultraviolet lights. It was a feature of several of these contracts that the S&O subcontracted out the printing work to other companies, in one case to a Chinese company that delivered the goods for less than half the cost of the contract price.
This raises questions about whether S&O were compliant with procurement rules and whether it compromised the security and integrity of the electoral process by subcontracting.
Additionally, on several contracts, S&O delivered significantly less papers than they were contracted to do raising the question of whether the integrity of the electoral process was compromised. It was also a feature of some of these contracts that prices were inflated significantly after award of contract. In all the contracts, the alleged bribes were paid for by the Kenyan tax payers, as the cost of commission was reflected in the contract price.
The specific contracts were as follows:
June 2009 – Shinyalu and Bomachoge By-Election. S&O were to provide voter ID cards, and ballot papers – although in the end they provided only 142,000 papers against the 200,000 ordered.
January 2010 – 18 million voter registration cards. Once S&O had been awarded the contract they subcontracted the production of half the forms to another company.
March 2010 – contract for electors’ card pouches which S&O subcontracted to a Chinese company who delivered them for less than half of the contract price.
May-July 2010 – three different By-Election ballot paper contracts (South Mugirango, Matuga and Civil By-Elections) – where the contract price in each case was increased substantially (sometimes by 50%) after award of contract to permit bribes to be paid. The agent advised S&O against providing “chicken” to visitors to their factory in 2010 as there were other officials not from the IIEC who he said they shouldn’t give “the wrong picture” – undermining the defence’s argument that the company was just doing things the “African way”. Significantly the company again delivered less quantities of ballot papers than were required in each of these three contracts – in the case of the Civic By-Elections some 40,000 less than ordered.
July 2010 – a contract to provide 14.6 million Referendum Ballot Papers in which S&O worked out an uplift per ballot paper to factor in the bribery.
July 2010 – 1.5 million OMR correction forms and 1000 nomination forms in May.
July-December 2010 – ultra violet lights and other Parliamentary and Civil Ballot Papers.
Electoral officials at the IIEC were on several occasions described by the agent, Trevy, as trying to make money before they left the IIEC and went back into government. The agent described the officials at on stage as anxious and “broke”, and “they are desperate for the chicken”. The agent also said that officials told him that S&O needed to “be discrete since all peoples eyes and the government intelligence are watching their every move even on the phone to ensure transparency”.
The Kenyan officials named in court as recipients of payments were as follows: IIEC: Kenneth Karani (chief procurement officer); David Chirchir (IIEC Commissioner); James Oswago (IIEC Chief Electoral Officer); Dena; Kennedy Nyaundi (Commissioner); Gladys Boss Shollei (Deputy CEO); Issack Hassan; Hamida, Tororey and Sang.
Several of these officials are still in government: David Chirchir is current Energy Minister in government, and Issack Hassan is the current Chairman of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) which took over from the IIEC.
The scope of the successfully prosecuted bribes to Kenyan officials, in particular the Kenyan Interim Independent Electoral Commission, now Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, was such as to suggest the corruption was not unique by time or geography.
Although USAID, as referenced in the State Department cable quoted above, has provided millions for the operations of the Electoral Commission of Kenya and its successors on a regularized basis since embedding IFES in the Electoral Commission of Kenya, ECK, in 2001, I do not know whether there was any direct U.S. funding, or U.S. funding through a “basket” administered through UNDP or otherwise, implicated in the specific acquisitions involved in the prosecution. At the least, given the level of U.S. funding for the Kenyan elections through this time period, the U.S. indirectly underwrote the ability of the Kenyan election officials to corruptly overpay for those things the U.S. was not helping to pay for.
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USAID has used the multiyear year cooperative agreements with CEPPS, the “consortium” of IRI, NDI and IFES, since the 1990s as a vehicle to award democracy assistance work. There are a variety of internal practical advantages to this in terms of bureaucratic speed and convenience.
In 2007 when I was East Africa Director at IRI in Nairobi, IRI’s public opinion polling program was conducted as a separate 2005 “follow” agreement under a overall master CEPPS “leader” agreement. All the work was done separately by IRI. When Ambassador Ranneberger wanted an exit poll for election day, USAID just issued a modification to our agreement to add on the additional work.
When the Ambassador wanted IRI to conduct an International Election Observation things were more involved because USAID had already decided not to do an Observation and IRI was not anxious to do one either. And there was no agreement in place as the only work we were doing for USAID was the polling program. Nonetheless, USAID was ultimately prepared to “move heaven and earth” to meet the Ambassador’s wish as they told me, and allocated a small amount of Economic Support Funds to support a new “follow” agreement for an Election Observation Mission. A Request For Proposals was issued to CEPPS, but it was written on a basis that excluded NDI as conflicted out due to its work with the political parties and IFES was conflicted out based on its work with the Electoral Commission of Kenya, so that IRI was the only available CEPPS entity to conduct the Observation Mission.
We conducted the Election Observation Mission and the Exit Poll, and reported on them to USAID, without being entangled with the separate work that IFES was doing with the Election Commission (ECK). I did not know any inside details of the ECK’s decision not to use the laptop computers purchased for them by USAID through IFES to do Results Transmission; likewise, no one at IFES (or NDI) had input or involvement in the Exit Poll or International Election Observation.
For the 2013 election, however, USAID’s FOIA response discussed in my previous post shows that the package of election assistance from early 2011 was bundled together in one “follow” agreement with CEPPS including the embedded technical support from IFES, including advice on the BVR and Poll Book acquisitions and the acquisition and development of the Results Transmission System handled by IFES, party and domestic observation support handled by NDI (too much is redacted to be specific on this part of the work) and voter education handled by IRI.
Appropriately, the International Election Observation Mission was funded separately through the Carter Center (and there is nothing about that in my FOIA request).
In 2017, the consolidated approach was ramped up a notch. USAID issued a published invitation for proposals (a good step for transparency and development of fresh thinking) but they wanted one entity to be in overall management of the work. Thus when they selected a team of IFES, NDI and IRI along the lines of 2013, IFES was in a supervisory position for the work, which this time included an International Observation Mission by NDI along with NDI’s domestic observation support and other normal work.
As it turns out, NDI’s International Observation took place and did preliminary reporting (as well as a pre-election assessment) but never issued a final report. At some point before the election USAID accepted an unsolicited proposal from the Carter Center to do an International Observation Mission separate from NDI’s work under the overall IFES-led Kenya Election Assistance Program. This was the delegation led by former Secretary of State John Kerry who had been in office during the 2013 election.
This is all more confusing and opaque than it needs to be! Aside from the inevitable conflicts associated with “observing” your own work and with maintaining trust where you know of critical risks and problems that your recipient government partners” are choosing not to disclose to their own public.
.@AsstSecStateAF: “As we reflect on the importance of transparency in other matters such as aid, debt and health information, the benefits of working with a free and open society, versus one that is not, is readily apparent.” #AFHubPress
I had hoped to have these public records to inform discussions about how the United States should interact with the next Kenyan election in 2017, but if I am successful in appealing the extensive redactions perhaps it can eventually be said “better late than never”. I did get a heavily redacted copy of the Cooperative Agreement between the “Consortium for Election and Political Process Strengthening” (IFES, IRI and NDI) in April 2017, before the August vote, but the rest has come out in smaller releases in June 2018 and September 2019 with the bulk now.
This is part of what I wrote July 3, 2017, a month ahead of the annulled election:
According to the EU and Carter Center election observation missions from the 2007 and 2013 elections, perhaps one-quarter to one-third of election officials at individual polling stations did not post the Form 34 showing the presidential vote count as required, so there has been ample room in each of these elections for numbers to change between the count of ballots and sealing of the ballot box at the polling station and the reported “tally” by which the president was named in Nairobi.
Unfortunately, a fair understanding of what happened in 2013 gets worse, in that it turns out that it would surely seem that the IEBC and the donors should have know ahead of time that the electronic reporting system was not going to work–but elected to project what must have been false confidence, followed by “surprise” at its failure. The president of IFES testified to the U.S. Congress in 2013 after the election that the failure was caused by a botched procurement. What was unsaid was that this was not just a procurement failure by the IEBC which IFES would have been expected to know about from its role as “embedded” within the IEBC to provide technical assistance, but that this was apparently also a botched United States government procurement from USAID through IFES, from what I eventually learned recently from my 2015 FOIA request as discussed in my post here from April:
“Kenya Election FOIA news: [heavily redacted] Election Assistance agreement shows US paid for failed 2013 “Results Transmission System”
From the Kenya Election and Political Process Strengthening (KEPPS) Program from USAID for the last Kenyan election:
“Considering the role that results transmission played in the 2007 election violence, IFES will build on its recent work with Kenya’s results transmission system to further enhance it and ensure its sustainability. IFES will ensure this system is fully installed, tested and operational for the 2012 election. Furthermore, IFES will fund essential upgrades and adjustments to this results transmission system.”
[p.28 of the Kenya Election and Political Process Strengthening 2012 Program – Cooperative Agreement between USAID and CEPPS (coalition of NDI, IFES and IRI)]
This USAID Agreement with the consortium of IFES, NDI and IRI makes up the first 236 pages of what I was told were approximately 1800 pages of documents and attachments provided by the USAID Mission in Kenya to the Washington FOIA office by January 2016 in response to my FOIA request of October 2015.
Unfortunately, I have still not gotten any of the rest of these pages covering contract files and correspondence, as well as USAID transactions with Smith & Ouzman, Ltd., the British firm that was convicted of bribing Kenyan election and education officials to buy their products in the infamous “Chickengate” scandal.
In spite of persistent follow up over these many months, I don’t have any further information as to whether I am likely to get more of these documents released in time for the new election (under the current Kenya Electoral Assistance Program awarded to IFES last year).
It is bit of a struggle for me to know what more to say about what I have learned so far about our efforts on the poorly administered and questionable 2013 election following “the debacle of 2007.”
On one hand I want to be as kind and generous to the individuals involved as possible–just as I have tried to be in dealing with the problems in 2007-08. On the other the I am seeing Kenyan voters being let down again in 2013–partly through a repeat of one of the big problems from 2007–the failure of trustworthy results transmission in spite of U.S. tax dollars being appropriated, programmed and spent to acquire the necessary systems.
Instead of finally “lancing the boil” in response to the problems in 2013, we seem to have pretended that the alleged “50.07%” received by the ICC indictees Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto was more credible than we should have known that it really was. We went so far as to spend at least some American tax dollars supporting the Kenyan IEBC’s litigation efforts against Kenyan civil society, and Kenyan opposition candidates, to defend their work and uphold their pronouncements, without disclosing what we knew about problematic behaviors by the IEBC involving their acquisition of the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) system and the Electronic Voter Identification (EVID), as well as the status of the Results Transmission System that we undertook to design and build at our own expense.
Almost all the redaction has been done by USAID on behalf of CEPPS on the claim that much of the material submitted by IFES, NDI and most especially IRI was exempt from FOIA under 5 U.S.C. §552(b)(4) for “trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person and privileged or confidential.” This claim of commercial confidentiality exemption is made for essentially all of IRI’s quarterly reporting, most of NDI’s and large sections of IFES’s as well as significant sections of CEPPS summaries. I have not seen this type of aggressive assertion of commercial confidentiality by not-for-profit election assistance “GONGOs” (Government Organized Non-Governmental Organizations) before and I am disappointed to see this approach which I do not see as sustainable. (I made it clear that I was not interested in rates and other financial information.)
No one likes scrutiny but I would think it comes with the territory of taking public foreign assistance money to help citizens of less developed countries achieve “free, fair , transparent and peaceful elections” as the goals were described here.
As Kenya’s 2022 presidential race continues in lower public gear due to the global pandemic, today’s Daily Nation has a story headlined “Uhuru Cabinet sweep targets DP Ruto allies” which also reports on competing messaging from the opposing Kenyatta/Odinga/BBI and Ruto camps that has been apparent for at least a few months.
I noticed last year current activity on a Twitter account, “@TheRealRaila”, previously active for less than 30 days in 2017 associated with the very dark propaganda videos of the same title used on behalf of the UhuRuto re-election campaign in 2017:
The account started Tweeting again back in June 2018 after silence from August 2017, and was now being used to promote the Building Bridges Initiative from the Uhuru-Raila “handshake” and “Uhuru’s Big 4 Agenda”. And to attack “evil society” for criticizing the Chinese Single Gauge Railroad deal, to attack Chief Justice David Maraga, and to attack Deputy President Ruto and his cadre.
See this concluding discussion of the latest campaign posture from today’s Daily Nation piece that leads with talk of upcoming Cabinet and Parliamentary purges:
The reports of the looming changes emerged as apocalyptic videos akin to those that ran against Mr Odinga in the 2017 campaign surfaced online, this time targeting the Number Two man.
The video that has all the hallmarks of the well-planned propaganda campaign that the former prime minister suffered in 2017, asks Kenyans to kick out dishonest leaders.
Images of the deputy president fill the video, although he is not mentioned.
On Sunday, Jubilee Deputy Secretary-General Caleb Kositany, who has become the de facto spokesman for the pro-Ruto camp, said his team was aware of the videos.
“We know who is producing them. It is a group of people supervised by a leading government official and their job description is to discredit William Ruto,” Mr Kositany, who is also the Soy MP, said.
The 2017 anti-Odinga videos and the divisive campaigns that started in 2013 but were escalated five years later were linked to British firm Cambridge Analytica and Harris Media, with the former said to have mined personal information from social media giant Facebook to craft and target personalised messages at voters.
“We just put information into the bloodstream of the internet and then watch it grow, give it a little push every now and again… like a remote control. It has to happen without anyone thinking, ‘that’s propaganda’, because the moment you think ‘that’s propaganda’, the next question is, ‘who’s put that out?’” Mr Alexander Nix from the firm said in the undercover video by Channel 4 TV.
The Ruto team On Sunday castigated the move by the government to reopen restaurants and not churches.
Dr Ruto’s activities have stopped due to the directive to close churches. Mr Kositany said places of worship should open, and follow the Covid-19 guidelines.
“It’s not about DP stealing the show in churches, those in charge are more inclined to business, than Godliness,” Mr Kositany said.
Churches, he said, were the “last thing on their mind”. Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen questioned the government’s move “to open bars and not churches”.
In May 2008 my family spent two weeks traveling around Uganda after finishing my time as Resident Director for East Africa at IRI before I was due to back at my “day job” as a lawyer at home in the U.S. This photo is of our children at a “backpacker resort” on the Nile.
It was a bright change of pace after the failed December election and post election violence in Kenya and associated drama I have been writing about here. The sort of thing I can wish for anyone after the present pandemic.
Dawn Brancati, (corresponding author) Yale University
Elizabeth M. Penn, Emory University
Political actors often resort to electoral violence in order to gain an edge over their competitors even though violence is much harder to hide than fraud and more likely to delegitimize elections as a result. The existing literature tends to treat violence and fraud as equivalent strategies or to treat violence as a means of last resorts due to its overtness. We argue, in contrast, that violence is neither and, in fact, that political actors often use violence for the very reason that it is hard to hide. Its overtness, we argue, allows political actors to observe whether the agents they enlist to manipulate elections for them do so and reduces these agents’ likelihood of shirking in turn. We develop our argument through a formal model, illustrating how increasing incentives to shirk due to electoral monitoring induces actors to use violence, and use process tracing to test the implications of this model through the example of pre-2011 Egypt.
Temperatures rose further after heavy fighting erupted on Monday in the Somali border town of Bulohawo between Somali government troops and forces from the semi-autonomous region of Jubaland.
Legislators from the nearby Kenyan town of Mandera said the fighting was so intense it caused residents there to flee and take shelter.
A Kenyan government statement condemning “violations of the country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty” appeared to indicate that Somali forces had crossed into Mandera during the battle.
“Foreign soldiers – in flagrant breach and total disregard of international laws and conventions – engaged in aggressive and belligerent activities by harassing and destroying properties of Kenyan citizens living in the border town of Mandera,” it said.
. . . .
The fighting inSomaliais the latest instance of tensions between Mogadishu and its regional governments.
Jubaland authorities in August accused Mogadishu of interfering in its election and seeking to remove President Ahmed Madobe and get a loyalist in power to increase its control.
Madobe is a key ally ofKenya, which sees Jubaland as a buffer againstal-Shababfighters who have staged several bloody attacks across the border.
Kenya has been further drawn in, as it is accused of harbouring a fugitive Jubaland minister who was arrested by Mogadishu for “serious crimes” but fled from prison in January.
Tensions between the neighbouring countries are also high because of a spat over maritime borders, with possibly lucrative Indian Ocean oil and gas reserves at stake.
. . . .
Kenya urged Somalia’s federal and regional governments to focus on defeating the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab.
Observers say the myriad feuds between the fragile government in Mogadishu and its federal states is a major obstacle to fighting the armed group.
Somalia’s dream of unity is understandable and it can be compelling, just as those supporting Somaliland separatism can find their case persuasive. But, what Farmajo forgets or does not understand is that if Somalia is going to reunite with Somaliland, it must perform better than Somaliland. It must be more stable, more secure, more democratic, and less corrupt. It must have a better economy that will be a regional envy. Somalia cannot force Somaliland into its fold militarily; it is not strong enough and occupying Somaliland will never bring peace. Militaristic rhetoric from Farmajo will only exacerbate mistrust born from his relative Siad Barre’s rule and the human rights abuses he perpetrated in Somaliland. What neither Farmajo nor Yamamoto understand is that economic strangulation also will not compel Somaliland to rejoin Somalia. Indeed, it is hard to imagine Hargeisa under Mogadishu’s control when even Mogadishu is not under Mogadishu’s control.
Somali nationalists can cast aspersions toward Somaliland nationalists, and they can troll on social media. Farmajo’s advisors and his press spokesmen can insult from an official podium before they retreat into armored cars and locked-down compounds, or take official planes to Doha and Istanbul. But none of their tactics will achieve their goals; indeed, they only make them harder to attain. If Somali nationalists want to restore Somali greatness, there is no substitute for reform. Simply put, for there to be unity, Somalia must be better than Somaliland rather than try to suffocate Somaliland.
ThinkSpotlight meetsAll the President’s Men. Mitchell, a born storyteller with a remarkable story to tell, recreates his investigation with the absorbing detail and in-the-moment feel of a police procedural. Readers are along for the ride as he tracks down leads, forges ahead after demoralizing setbacks, and extracts nuggets of information from reluctant sources. They share the sense of victory as key pieces of information come to light and when he finally gets his hands on documents long hidden or long forgotten.
Thanks to his revelations and the public pressure his stories created, prosecutors reopened these cases and secured long-overdue convictions of the surviving killers. Sam Bowers, a former Klan leader, was finally convicted imprisoned in 1998 for ordering the attack that killed Vernon Dahmer. In 2005, eighty-year-old Edgar Ray Killen was convicted of manslaughter for his role in the murder of the three civil rights workers in the Mississippi Burning case.
Mitchell discovered that his own paper had promoted segregation in the 1960s and had helped the Klan to discredit supporters of the civil rights movement. TheClarion-Ledgerhad cleaned up its act by the 1990s – collecting a Pulitzer Prize for its advocacy of educational reforms – and to its credit, published Mitchell’s exposés of its own odious past.
Race Against Timeunderscores the importance of solid, fearless, public-spirited journalism – something more vital than ever in our time of social media distraction and self-serving dismissals of uncomfortable truths as “fake news.” It’s a call to arms against the resurgence of white supremacy and hate crimes. Most of all, Mitchell’s inspiring story of how he told truth to power is a reminder that it’s never too late to do the right thing.
I moved to the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 1991 from Nashville, Tennessee after law school (with a letter of introduction from the Republican Party in Tennessee to the Republican Party in Mississippi). I joined the Bar after taking the exam in Jackson where Jerry Mitchell was based and in the early years of the pioneering work at the Clarion Ledger newspaper that he recounts in Race Against Time. My only previous trip to the capital city had been to advance a presidential campaign event back during my first year of law school. I spent the rest of the decade having some grand adventures in the private practice of law in the places where “Race Against Time” is set, along with marrying, starting a family, and serving on the local GOP County Committee and a term as President of the local Republican Club. And learning about the history of Mississippi and civil rights from lots of great writing of that era covering especially events of the 1960s, and from the investigative journalism of Jerry Mitchell and the proceedings in the prosecutions of the “cold cases” that he helped to prod to life.
Unfortunately I have yet to meet Jerry Mitchell, but I know the towns and courthouses that he writes about (and I will certainly hope to meet him someday–he is on a very active national book tour now). He posts on Facebook daily moments of history from the Civil Rights Era, which I recommend. I often share them, with the thought that by remembering that necessary changes like voting rights for African Americans that we want to take for granted (or chisel at for reasons of partisanship) do not happen by themselves and that even people who are too “conservative” to like “the liberals” end up incorporating part of the fruits of their labor, because there are always things that need to “change” or be “reformed” just as there are things to be “conserved”, preserved (or pickled and fried as the case may be).
Let me give a shout here to my lovely wife who bought me the book for Valentines Day (and who brought me to Mississippi and into her family and all the great adventures of the American South). I avoid mentioning my family here for the most part just for privacy sake but just have to indulge here. Don’t blame her or our children for how I am.